Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Future of News

David Hunter Tow – Director of the Future Planet Research Centre, predicts that by 2030 current news will cease to become the dominant news format, as thousands of reporting services instead switch to a Future Reality. But with the Surveillance state looming as a major social disrupter it must re-examine its role as the primary protector of democracy.

By 2020- most major print media will have adopted a mobile multimedia model as traditional advertising streams dry up and the news is reduced to short headline summaries and specialist reporting of leisure activities, social events, conflict and crime, supported by algorithmic analysis.

Current and breaking news feeds, captured largely by citizen reporters and tiny robot drone cameras in war zones, urban and remote  environments, will receive limited exposure only, before being consigned to the archives of Big News - exobytes of information automatically scanned for useful patterns from which future news scenarios can be extracted. These scenarios will offer an endless smorgasbord of projections and entertainment, to which society will become increasingly addicted, replacing current reality television. 

Special editions and feature articles relating to past events will continue to be produced in reduced quantity, but online future short-burst information- text, video and audio streams, will be increasingly popular, generated by specialist forecasting channels and distributed directly to clients via new vogue fashion devices- digital jewellery, headbands, glasses and watches.

A small core of traditional broadcasters such as Public Television and Aljazeera will remain focussed on hard breaking reality news, but the main switch will be to web streaming channels covering every topic, mostly blandly personalised to individual taste; viewable anywhere, anytime, primarily on mobile media pod screens in 3D. These personalised channels will be ubiquitous, producing a mix of future scenarios and entertainment; with the line between past, present and future becoming increasingly blurred.

By 2030 future news will have become the new norm, with the media evolving as differentiated streams available from thousands of web hubs,  aggregation sites and social media news networks in three broad formats- headlines and short synopses of future events competing with traditional breaking news feeds and the few remaining wire services; in-depth reviews and features relating to past and evolving narratives, merging with independent blogger storylines; and third- scenario analyses leveraging past and current trends, feeding back to create ongoing news hyper-loops.

By 2035 this process will be linked to the exploration of alternate virtual futures, combining with societal predictions to become the dominant entertainment as well as news format. News, entertainment and sport will then become truly interactive, overlapping with online gaming, available within 3D holographic environments such as full sensory Holodecks, for maximum immersive reality effect.

Generating future news scenarios will have become the new creative buzz and the largest media growth segment – catalysing new ideas and startup generators, as humans commit to virtual future-based realities in everyday life.

But already a wild card has been thrown into the futures mix- the rise of the Surveillance State. The Orwellian PRISM, XKeyscore and Tempora Internet search and intercept programs initiated by the NSA and GCHQ in concert with other spy organisations across the world are also about creating their own future news programs.

Following the end of the Cold War the prestige of the US and European spy communities was in serious decline. But with the advent of the September 11 attack, the failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the subsequent global war on Jihadist terror, combined with the support of a draconian Patriot Act - they were back in business.

With the collaboration of the major global telecomm and social media companies and a subservient US judicial and political oversight process, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four vision of a dystopian society- an omnipresent surveillance state enforcing mind control and persecuting all independent thinkers, had finally arrived. 

But this time there is no going back. Most domestic and foreign phone and Internet communications are now monitored and archived for possible future analysis in the US, Middle East, Europe, Russia and China. And just like a fast food addict the NSA and other spy organisations are gorging themselves on more and more junk data, to ensure that no pattern, regardless how trivial, escapes its infinite obsession with ‘Persons of Interest’.

But true to form like the bumbling Keystone Cops, the NSA hired thousands of outside contractors with access to top secret information to guard its vaults and manage its data treasure trove. What were the odds that sooner or later at least one of those contractors would have the moral courage to become a potent Whistleblower? And even with the evidence stacked against them the national intelligence agencies continued to lie about the nature of the enterprise and the amount of data actually intercepted.  ‘A postage stamp sized area compared with a basketball court’ was the analogy given by the NSA to Congress.  And then to cap it off, when the alarm bells rang and the gig was up, the White House administration set up a review committee with- you guessed it – the very same Director of National Intelligence and some ex buddies in charge.

Surveillance technology is now evolving at warp speed creating unprecedented Future Shock to civilisation’s social fabric. Although there has been universal outrage against this unprecedented invasion of human rights under the pretext of pre-empting global terrorism, the Future News Machine is running hot and there is no end in sight.

So as history records it, this was the beginning of the largest spy operation in the West waged against its own populations in human history; invading the rights of citizens regardless of fundamental constitutional safeguards- enough to make George Orwell turn in his grave. This has created a future reality in which everyone is likely to end up a Person of Suspicion and sets the scene for the next phase of the future news narrative- the rise of the Precognition (Precog) state.

What better method of creating an Orwellian future than continually trumpeting the ability of the machine to predict the next big terrorist attack. We’ve already had one scare campaign, with the withdrawal of US embassy staff from the Middle East. And of course nothing happened. But according to the NSA it would have without their machine’s timely intervention; and you can bet there’ll soon be lots more proof of concept panic attacks in the future.

In this way the future news cycle becomes embedded in society’s psyche. No-one is interested in the past or present when knowing what’s about to happen tomorrow is far more exciting.   It’s then just a small step for a Surveillance state to reach the next level of social control- the Precog state- with the capability of inferring the physical intentions of every citizen by using algorithms to measure their cognitive condition.

Cyber components and sensors such as pacemakers and brain signal headbands are already commonly embedded in humans and monitored by the latest phone apps; allowing doctors to track the wellbeing of their patients and save lives. So it’s just a small step to use such systems to translate the intent of an individual into signature patterns which may then be passed to a control system monitored by surveillance robots.

It’s not hard to imagine this as the ideal decision feedback for a Precog machine, capable of triggering a lethal reprisal to block  such premeditated actions in real or future time. The problem is of course that the consequences of such pervasive intrusion are likely to be catastrophic for humanity- triggering social paranoia, decision gridlock and worse.

In the meantime, while the spies fiddle with their fetish for more data and power- the world burns.

By 2040 human survival in the face of global warming will have become the paramount issue facing humanity- far outstripping any terrorist threat. This will require a radical strategy of using predictive analytics as a means of pre-empting some of its worst impacts- similar to using back-burning to defeat a fire by getting ahead of it and setting up containment lines, turning it on itself. The fire and most of the damage it causes can be stopped in its tracks and ultimately defeated. 

Giant Social Observatory models will provide the computational power to predict future outcomes using advanced algorithms to interpret signals and forecast viable interventions. Thousands of automated forecasting algorithms will work to get ahead of the looming Armageddon,  covering critical trends in energy sufficiency, food and water availability, materials and resource logistics, infrastructure, economics, stock markets, crime and conflict; exposing and pre-empting the potential risks, threats and flaws, before major damage is done.

Future News Channels will provide windows to publicise and present the results of the modelling to the broader population on a continuous basis- giving those communities who might be worst affected by such extreme events prior warning, empowering them to take decisions vital to their own survival.

Researchers in business and academia already make predictions about a vast number of phenomena, at least over the short term- such as corporate earnings, the weather, impacts of droughts, fires and food shortages as well as economic and market movements, commodity prices, retail sales, employment statistics, real estate prices, disease pandemics, political analyses and more recently conflict and crime hotspots. 

But most of these are relatively short-term scenarios, analyses and indicators   which will be extended further into the future- most importantly in areas that could save lives, using for example more advanced collection methods- micro satellites, robotic swarms, crowdsourcing and networks of dedicated citizen volunteers, to provide excellent opportunities to supplement traditional reporting and data collection  methods.

By 2050 a form of social Superorganism encompassing the majority of humans will begin to emerge as an outcome of the cooperative creativity and crowdsourcing already evident - with the fusing of artificial and human intelligence linked to the sentient Web 5.0. Most technological and social trends and fashions will be based on the memes and decision capability of such a Superorganism. But far more importantly it will allow survival actions to be taken much faster and in a more coordinated way.

The Web is rapidly becoming the heart and soul of humanity’s survival kit in which all knowledge and events whether generated by humans, other life forms or machines will be stored and processed. Once encapsulated, knowledge can be mixed and matched, processed and recycled ad infinitum just like waste matter, until finally emerging in a form that humanity’s superorganism will feed on for its survival in the future.

But the Web’s power could be lost if the surveillance state destroys the trust of its users. It has already started to fragment and is likely to balkanise in the near future as countries and companies withdraw their data to their own jurisdictions to protect intellectual property and trade secrets.

So the intrusive programs of spy organisations across the globe are likely to bring about their own undoing as the Web technologies based on trust such as the Cloud and Mobile Apps collapse- destroying the future- in its place creating chaos and anarchy. 

By 2050 therefore, to counter this collapse of trust, Future News will need to restore its credibility by turning itself into something of critical significance – a more trustworthy and effective weapon in the fight for human survival and the defeat of the Precog/Surveillance State.

No more a craven apologist to power elites. It must position itself as the critical link between humanity and a democratic state as civilisation evolves. It must return to its roots- documenting and projecting the progress of all cultural, political, scientific and technological experience of life's existence, without fear- into the far future. 


  1. Hmmmm... taken far enough our immersion into the electronic present may not isolate our sense of space or time (instant revisionism thus also possible) so from each other.

    In this new sense of forecasting, prediction, forewarning ... well David, this is an outstanding example of such articles to come as future news :-)

    1. Dear Edgar - very much appreciate your support for my feeble attempt at future news conceptualisation and insight into the electronic present's incapacity to protect our individual sense of space and time and distort it's integrity through covert revisionism
      Best future

  2. Replies
    1. Apologies for the late reply Brandon. Your support is greatly appreciated and hopefully my future blogging will continue to be of interest to you.